Inside Out, Pixar's newest movie, is a therapist's dream movie. If you work with children, have children, know a child, or know anyone that has a child... stop here and go see this movie!
As a therapist in Virginia Beach, I often work with children with Autism and ADHD. I work with kids who are struggling to fit in, to cope with anxiety, frustration and change. This movie is the perfect platform to engage kids on an emotional level and to grow their emotional intelligence. (By the way, how awesome is that Lego Ideas Project of Inside Out Headquarters?!)
Helping kids identify their emotions
This kindergarten teacher staged "disagreements" between herself and an aid to model how to identify emotions in yourself and others, how to address and resolve conflict. She noticed a huge difference in the way her students related to one another, especially students who were previously aggressive.
Inside Out Headquarters posted this lovely piece of fan art on their tumblr site. It's a great visual for how strongly your child feels an emotion.
You could easily use this chart to help identify emotions. Or have the child tell stories about themselves at each level of the emotion.
This mom created a printable sorting game to help kids learn to identify emotions based on how they are feeling in a given moment. For example, Sadness can feel like Unhappy, Crying, or Hurt.
Talking to kids about their emotions
This foster mom wrote about how she used these Inside Out Plush toys as puppets to engage her foster kids on the topic. I think this would be a great activity for younger kids to talk about how they and other feel.
Here are several questions you could use as discussion starters with kids who are a little older, maybe 5 or 6 and up. You could always modify the questions for kids who are a little younger.
In case you haven't seen it, here is a review of the movie and some thoughts on how to discuss different aspects of the movie with your kids. Beware there are spoilers in this one.
Dealing with Hard situations & Complicated Feelings
Riley experiences some big changes and disappointments in the movie. This post offers some great strategies to help your child talk about the more intense feelings that come along big life changes (e.g. moving, divorce, new school, etc.)
This next one is probably my favorite of the whole Inside Out Movie Round Up. This chart (who doesn't love charts?) is fantastic. One of the biggest lessons in the whole movie is that as you mature emotions become more complicated... they aren't simply happy or sad or angry memories. This chart details what happens when two emotions combine. And... it's simply brilliant.
On Grief and Loss
Eleanor, blogger at What's Your Grief, pointed out that themes portrayed in the movie are very applicable to anyone experiencing grief or loss, especially children.
It can be tough to learn that the happy things we remember about someone we lost, can also make us sad.
20+ Video Clips (Yes, Please.)
I would like to formally thank The Helpful Counselor for doing all the work for me and curating a ton of teachable moments about feelings. Thank you, thank you very much. This is enough content for a video on just about any topic that comes up in play therapy and counseling. (I'm a happy counselor. Very happy.)
Teaching Social Emotional Intelligence
The Gottman Institute published an excellent article on extending the ideas and themes in the movie to teach social and emotional intelligence skills to kids. These ideas go beyond the movie, such as learning about the brain and connecting that to things they saw in the movie.
This mom of twins on the Autism Spectrum gives her thoughts on how the movie relates to the particular challenges of those with Autism and their families.
What I love most about this movie for kids on the Spectrum, is that it gives a concrete visual reference for feelings and it offers a language, complete with gestures, words, and references for discussing emotions!